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It’s no secret that US citizens live in a police state in which the government, particularly through the USA PATRIOT Act, grants itself unlimited powers of surveillance, but the leaking of a top-secret document has shed new light on the mind-boggling scale of the monitoring of communication. On June 6, The Guardian reported (see below) on the chilling extent to which the state can and does invade citizens’ privacy through a top-secret program used by the National Security Agency (NSA). The Guardian revealed not only a top-secret court order to telecom giant Verizen to release the phone records of millions of Americans, but also a program called PRISM which allows the NSA to access stored user data on nine major server providers: Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, YouTube, Skype, AOL, PalTalk, and Apple. PRISM is the main source of information in 1 out of 7 NSA intelligence reports. Tapping directly into the central servers of these internet companies, the NSA and FBI are extracting emails, documents, audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs. PRISM not only makes privy to the state stored user data, but enables it to monitor live communications as they unfold.  In exchange for legal immunity, corporations are obliged to accept a “directive” from the FBI to grant the state open access to all US communications; some corporations like Apple, however, have resisted government invasion, as has Twitter.

All of this is done, of course, under the guise of national security and the phony “war on terror” which fronts for the real war — the war against democracy. As reported by The Washington Post, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper said “information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable foreign intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats. The unauthorized disclosure of information about this important and entirely legal program is reprehensible and risks important protections for the security of Americans.” This is dubious given the history of US state repression and FBI operations against US citizens, activists, and social movements. The state argues PRISM focuses on communications to and from foreign countries as it grants open access to virtually all communications with the country. The state also argues that it only examines packets of date and not data content, but content is easily obtained.

These new revelations underscore the integral interrelations of Big Business and Big Brother in the US corporate-state complex and the extent to which “privacy” is obsolete in the era of the Internet and social networking. Activists beware; dissent with care.

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The Guardian

Prism

A slide depicting the top-secret PRISM program

The National Security Agency has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants, according to a top secret document obtained by the Guardian.

The NSA access is part of a previously undisclosed program called PRISM, which allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats, the document says.

The Guardian has verified the authenticity of the document, a 41-slide PowerPoint presentation – classified as top secret with no distribution to foreign allies – which was apparently used to train intelligence operatives on the capabilities of the program. The document claims “collection directly from the servers” of major US service providers.

Although the presentation claims the program is run with the assistance of the companies, all those who responded to a Guardian request for comment on Thursday denied knowledge of any such program.

In a statement, Google said: “Google cares deeply about the security of our users’ data. We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully. From time to time, people allege that we have created a government ‘back door’ into our systems, but Google does not have a back door for the government to access private user data.”

Several senior tech executives insisted that they had no knowledge of PRISM or of any similar scheme. They said they would never have been involved in such a program. “If they are doing this, they are doing it without our knowledge,” one said.

An Apple spokesman said it had “never heard” of PRISM.

The NSA access was enabled by changes to US surveillance law introduced under President Bush and renewed under Obama in December 2012.

PrismThe program facilitates extensive, in-depth surveillance on live communications and stored information. The law allows for the targeting of any customers of participating firms who live outside the US, or those Americans whose communications include people outside the US.

It also opens the possibility of communications made entirely within the US being collected without warrants.

Disclosure of the PRISM program follows a leak to the Guardian on Wednesday of a top-secret court order compelling telecoms provider Verizon to turn over the telephone records of millions of US customers.

The participation of the internet companies in PRISM will add to the debate, ignited by the Verizon revelation, about the scale of surveillance by the intelligence services. Unlike the collection of those call records, this surveillance can include the content of communications and not just the metadata.

Some of the world’s largest internet brands are claimed to be part of the information-sharing program since its introduction in 2007. Microsoft – which is currently running an advertising campaign with the slogan “Yourprivacy is our priority” – was the first, with collection beginning in December 2007.

It was followed by Yahoo in 2008; Google, Facebook and PalTalk in 2009; YouTube in 2010; Skype and AOL in 2011; and finally Apple, which joined the program in 2012. The program is continuing to expand, with other providers due to come online.

Collectively, the companies cover the vast majority of online email, search, video and communications networks.

Prism

The extent and nature of the data collected from each company varies.

Companies are legally obliged to comply with requests for users’ communications under US law, but the PRISM program allows the intelligence services direct access to the companies’ servers. The NSA document notes the operations have “assistance of communications providers in the US”.

The revelation also supports concerns raised by several US senators during the renewal of the Fisa Amendments Act in December 2012, who warned about the scale of surveillance the law might enable, and shortcomings in the safeguards it introduces.

When the FAA was first enacted, defenders of the statute argued that a significant check on abuse would be the NSA’s inability to obtain electronic communications without the consent of the telecom and internet companies that control the data. But the PRISM program renders that consent unnecessary, as it allows the agency to directly and unilaterally seize the communications off the companies’ servers.

A chart prepared by the NSA, contained within the top-secret document obtained by the Guardian, underscores the breadth of the data it is able to obtain: email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, voice-over-IP (Skype, for example) chats, file transfers, social networking details, and more.

PRISM slide crop
The document is recent, dating to April 2013. Such a leak is extremely rare in the history of the NSA, which prides itself on maintaining a high level of secrecy.

The PRISM program allows the NSA, the world’s largest surveillance organisation, to obtain targeted communications without having to request them from the service providers and without having to obtain individual court orders.

With this program, the NSA is able to reach directly into the servers of the participating companies and obtain both stored communications as well as perform real-time collection on targeted users.

The presentation claims PRISM was introduced to overcome what the NSA regarded as shortcomings of Fisa warrants in tracking suspected foreign terrorists. It noted that the US has a “home-field advantage” due to housing much of the internet’s architecture. But the presentation claimed “Fisa constraints restricted our home-field advantage” because Fisa required individual warrants and confirmations that both the sender and receiver of a communication were outside the US.

“Fisa was broken because it provided privacy protections to people who were not entitled to them,” the presentation claimed. “It took a Fisa court order to collect on foreigners overseas who were communicating with other foreigners overseas simply because the government was collecting off a wire in the United States. There were too many email accounts to be practical to seek Fisas for all.”

The new measures introduced in the FAA redefines “electronic surveillance” to exclude anyone “reasonably believed” to be outside the USA – a technical change which reduces the bar to initiating surveillance.

The act also gives the director of national intelligence and the attorney general power to permit obtaining intelligence information, and indemnifies internet companies against any actions arising as a result of co-operating with authorities’ requests.

In short, where previously the NSA needed individual authorisations, and confirmation that all parties were outside the USA, they now need only reasonable suspicion that one of the parties was outside the country at the time of the records were collected by the NSA.

The document also shows the FBI acts as an intermediary between other agencies and the tech companies, and stresses its reliance on the participation of US internet firms, claiming “access is 100% dependent on ISP provisioning”.

In the document, the NSA hails the PRISM program as “one of the most valuable, unique and productive accesses for NSA”.

It boasts of what it calls “strong growth” in its use of the PRISM program to obtain communications. The document highlights the number of obtained communications increased in 2012 by 248% for Skype – leading the notes to remark there was “exponential growth in Skype reporting; looks like the word is getting out about our capability against Skype”. There was also a 131% increase in requests for Facebook data, and 63% for Google.

The NSA document indicates that it is planning to add Dropbox as a PRISM provider. The agency also seeks, in its words, to “expand collection services from existing providers”.

The revelations echo fears raised on the Senate floor last year during the expedited debate on the renewal of the FAA powers which underpin the PRISM program, which occurred just days before the act expired.

Senator Christopher Coons of Delaware specifically warned that the secrecy surrounding the various surveillance programs meant there was no way to know if safeguards within the act were working.

“The problem is: we here in the Senate and the citizens we represent don’t know how well any of these safeguards actually work,” he said.

“The law doesn’t forbid purely domestic information from being collected. We know that at least one Fisa court has ruled that the surveillance program violated the law. Why? Those who know can’t say and average Americans can’t know.”

Other senators also raised concerns. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon attempted, without success, to find out any information on how many phone calls or emails had been intercepted under the program.

When the law was enacted, defenders of the FAA argued that a significant check on abuse would be the NSA’s inability to obtain electronic communications without the consent of the telecom and internet companies that control the data. But the PRISM program renders that consent unnecessary, as it allows the agency to directly and unilaterally seize the communications off the companies’ servers.

When the NSA reviews a communication it believes merits further investigation, it issues what it calls a “report”. According to the NSA, “over 2,000 PRISM-based reports” are now issued every month. There were 24,005 in 2012, a 27% increase on the previous year.

In total, more than 77,000 intelligence reports have cited the PRISM program.

Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU’s Center for Democracy, that it was astonishing the NSA would even ask technology companies to grant direct access to user data.

“It’s shocking enough just that the NSA is asking companies to do this,” he said. “The NSA is part of the military. The military has been granted unprecedented access to civilian communications.

“This is unprecedented militarisation of domestic communications infrastructure. That’s profoundly troubling to anyone who is concerned about that separation.”

A senior administration official said in a statement: “The Guardian and Washington Post articles refer to collection of communications pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This law does not allow the targeting of any US citizen or of any person located within the United States.

“The program is subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the Executive Branch, and Congress. It involves extensive procedures, specifically approved by the court, to ensure that only non-US persons outside the US are targeted, and that minimize the acquisition, retention and dissemination of incidentally acquired information about US persons.

“This program was recently reauthorized by Congress after extensive hearings and debate.

“Information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats.

“The Government may only use Section 702 to acquire foreign intelligence information, which is specifically, and narrowly, defined in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This requirement applies across the board, regardless of the nationality of the target.”

On April 28 2012, in Montichiari Italy, at 16: 15, in broad daylight, amidst a crowd of over 1,000 protestors, animal activists broke into the compound of Green Hill laboratory animal breeders and liberated 27 beagles. It was a bold, brazen, defiant, and iconic act of defiance, resistance, and liberation. Soon after, the Green Hill compound was closed and hundreds of beagles were adopted to loving homes.

I wrote various reports and updates on the Green Hill action (see here, here, here, and here). In September 2012, during a speaking tour of Italy (see here, here,  and here), I had the honor of speaking throughout Italy, of meeting with key Green Hill activists, of speaking to Green Hill campaigners and Italian animal rights activists, and meeting some of the Green Hill dogs.

At Green Hill Compound

At Green Hill Compound

Animal rights activist and director of a forthcoming documentary on the Green Hill liberation, Piercarlo Paderno, was kind enough to interview me for this film, an interview which is featured in this short clip from “Green Hill – A Story of Freedom.”

The narrative is in Italian, my own words are translated and subtitled, and the images of the bold raid on Green Hill tell the story in a universal language.

Wow, I knew if I lived long enough I would agree with Prince Charles on something, and it seems we agree that there is an implacable war against animals, a world war on a global scale, starkly evident in the high-tech poaching industry that is wiping out species such as rhinos and elephants before our eyes (see, for instance, my posts here and here). It seems we also agree that the human assault on other animals ought to be viewed as and treated as a war in which we defend animals from attack by any means necessary on this dying planet (see, for instance, my posts here and here). 

Nice to be in agreement with you on these points, Prince Charles. Now how about putting the UK’s armed forces in the service of wildlife under attack?

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The Guardian, May 21, 2013

Princes Charles and Prince William

Prince Charles and Prince William examine confiscated items made from endangered animals at the conference.

Prince Charles has warned that criminal gangs are turning to animal poaching, an unprecedented slaughter of species that can only be stopped by waging war on the perpetrators, in the latest of a series of increasingly outspoken speeches about the environment.

Addressing a conference of conservationists at St James’s Palace in London, the Prince of Wales announced a meeting of heads of state to take place this autumn in London under government auspices to combat what he described as an emerging, militarised crisis.

“We face one of the most serious threats to wildlife ever, and we must treat it as a battle – because it is precisely that,” said Charles. “Organised bands of criminals are stealing and slaughtering elephants, rhinoceros and tigers, as well as large numbers of other species, in a way that has never been seen before. They are taking these animals, sometimes in unimaginably high numbers, using the weapons of war – assault rifles, silencers, night-vision equipment and helicopters.”

It is the second outspoken speech that Charles has made this month, at a time when he is taking on an increasing number of monarchical duties, after he told a group of forest scientists also at St James’s Palace that corporate lobbyists and climate change sceptics were turning the Earth into a “dying patient”. The Prince of Wales warned that iconic species – which could include rhinoceros, tigers, orangutans and others – could be extinct in the wild within a decade if efforts to protect them were not stepped up. “By urgent, I mean urgent,” he told the dignitaries, who included governmental and United Nations officials as well as NGOs and grassroots activists.

His son, the Duke of Cambridge, added to the plea: “My fear is that one of two things will stop the illegal trade: either we take action to stem the trade, or we will run out of the animals. There is no other outcome possible.”

Charles also stressed the need to deal with the demand for exotic species. In the past, much of the market for tiger parts, rhino horns and ivory was said to be driven by beliefs in traditional Chinese medicine, in which the rare animal parts were believed to have curative or aphrodisiac properties. But the prince dismissed such ideas, saying the trade was in fact about status symbols rather than belief systems. “The bulk of the intended use is no longer for products that can be classified as traditional medicines. Instead, many more people in rapidly growing economies are seeking exotic products that reflect their economic prosperity and status.”

The conference called for celebrities to publicise their outrage and opposition to the trade, and for young people in countries such as China to be educated to reject the demands of their parents for such status-fuelled goods.

I have blogged often against fatuous “Vegan Victory” celebrations and parades to remind everyone that while meat consumption is temporarily down in the US, it is growing at staggering rates on a global level (see, for instance here and here). Particularly, I have tried to warn people that the world’s most populous and rapidly modernizing nations — such as China, India, and Indonesia — continue to expand their economies, develop Western-capitalist social-economic models, enlarge their populations, and dramatically increase their production and consumption of meat.

China continues to lead the way in posing grave ecological threats to the world and slaughter ever-more animals for consumption. I have emphasized the ambiguity of China, which is that as animal advocacy grows, so too does meat consumption.

In a major new and foreboding development, on May 29, meat producer Shuanghui International bought Virginia-based Smithfield Foods for nearly $5 billion dollars, in what many consider to be the largest Chinese acquisition of a US corporation in history.

smithfield_wide-900fba44abfad633c231a99c4fb0ddf78c1e4725-s6-c30

Smithfield Foods, founded in 1936, was a major meat producing corporation particularly of pork. The transaction was beneficial to both parties, for while pork consumption has declined in the US, it is steadily rising in China. The US slaughters 100 million hogs for food consumption annually, whereas China butchers 470 million hogs per year. Thus, in a classic case of demand stimulating supply, Smithfield Foods is now part of Shuanghui International. China — with a population of 1.6 billion compared to 300 million people living in the US — is the world’s leading producer and consumer of pork.

07-08FAS7

As if US meat production methods were ever safe, or there is a thing as safe pork or healthy meat, some members of Congress are voicing hypocritical health concerns voiced. “I have deep doubts, said  Representative Rose DeLauro, a Democrat from Connecticut, “about whether this merger best serves American consumers and urge federal regulators to put their concerns first.” But this is China, after all, and such “safety” concerns are not without merit: “Demand for U.S. meat in China has risen tenfold over the past decade, fueled in part by a series of embarrassing food safety scandals, from rat meat passed off as pork to thousands of pig carcasses floating on a river.Demand for U.S. meat in China has risen tenfold over the past decade, fueled in part by a series of embarrassing food safety scandals, from rat meat passed off as pork to thousands of pig carcasses floating on a river.”

china-produces-nearly-six-times-as-much-pork-per-person-as-the-rest-of-the-world

China produces nearly six times as much pork per person as the rest of the world

Apart from underscoring the oxymoron of “safe” or “healthy” meat of any kind, the more important issues are not sickened consumers foolish enough to consume animal “products,” but rather the ethical issue of a growing global animal holocaust and the catastrophic environmental impact of factory farming and the global rise of agribusiness and appetites for flesh, especially in the large, rapidly modernizing nations such as China.

14-facts-about-the-staggeringly-huge-chinese-pork-industry

Chinese Pork Industry

Despite foreign ownership, USA Today notes:

“Shuanghui has 13 facilities that produce more than 2.7 million tons of meat per year. Under the agreement, there will be no closures at Smithfield’s facilities and locations, including its Smithfield, Va., headquarters in the historic southeastern Virginia town of about 8,100 where it was founded in 1936, the companies said.

Smithfield’s existing management team will remain in place, and Shuanghui also will honor the collective bargaining agreements with Smithfield workers. The company has about 46,000 employees.

“This transaction preserves the same old Smithfield, only with more opportunities and new markets and new frontiers,” Smithfield CEO Larry Pope said in a conference call. “This is not a strategy to import Chinese pork into the United States … this is exporting America to the world.”

Sadly, this statement is true, and when US carnivorous culture influences global markets and massively populated nations such as China, it is the perfect storm for ecological collapse.

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Also see: “14 Facts About The Staggeringly Huge Chinese Pork Industry”

On May 24, a Sri Lankan Buddhist monk, Ven. Bowatte Indrarathana Thera, self-immolated near the main entrance of the Dalada Maligawa in Kandy, to protest cattle slaughter  in his country (see video here)  . He had conducted raids to investigate illegal slaughter houses and was a vocal critic of cattle slaughter. He died of severe burns to over 95 percent of his body. Buddhist monks clashed over possession of his remains. This stunning action raises the bar on animal activism and political commitment more than a bit.

Monk_Succumbs

Below follows an editorial from Ceylon Today:

Ban Cattle Slaughter Immediately

Political parties affiliated to the UPFA Government demanded that President Mahinda Rajapaksa take immediate action to ban cattle slaughter in the country.

Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) insisted the slaughter of cattle should be banned before the funeral of Ven. Bowatte Indrarathana Thera who had succumbed to the injuries sustained after setting himself ablaze at the main entrance to the Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy on 24 May.

General Secretary of the JHU, Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka, addressing the media in Colombo said, Indrarathana Thera’s death was not a suicide but a sacrifice of life for the sake of the country.He added that Indrarathana Thera had been involved in various campaigns against cattle slaughter, and the monk had clearly declared before setting himself on fire that no one should be held responsible for his action.

Speaking about his connection to the JHU, Minister Ranawaka said that Indrarathana Thera was a member of the Pelmadulla Pradeshiya Sabha, but he had lost his membership of the local authority as he had not attended the Pradeshiya Sabha meetings due to his social service engagements.

He went on to say that some foreign media are attempting to create a wrong impression about the monk’s death by stating it was suicide related to a religious issue.

Meanwhile, the Leader of the National Freedom Front (NFF), Wimal Weerawansa, has also requested President Rajapaksa to immediately ban the slaughtering of cattle in Sri Lanka.

In the wake of a Buddhist monk setting himself ablaze,  Weerawansa has written to President Rajapaksa saying that measures should be taken based on the incident. He had further pointed out that the majority of the country’s Buddhists and Hindus reject cattle slaughtering, and that only a small group among Sri Lankan society approves of it.

He stated that in India, which has a majority of Hindus, cattle slaughtering has been banned and that during festivals such as Thai Pongal, they express gratitude to the cow that plays an important role in the traditional Indian farmstead. As such, it is greatly disappointing that cattle slaughtering continues to take place in Sri Lanka, a country which boasts of an agricultural economy, Weerawansa added.

Meanwhile, the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) also said they will do their best to ensure that the wishes of  Indrarathana Thera are granted.

BBS General Secretary, Ven. Galaboda Aththe Gnanasara Thera, told the media that Indrarathana Thera’s death was not a suicide, but one of life sacrifice. He added, Indrarathana Thera had demanded that both the slaughter of cattle and unethical conversions be stopped and a suitable Constitution for Sri Lanka be set up, vowing that BBS will work towards those objectives.

“Although the Animal Welfare Bill was drafted, it did not become law. Indrarathana Thera continuously fought to pass the Bill and establish it as a law. There was a Bill to stop unethical conversions but that too has not become law,” he said.

Gnanasara Thera stressed that cattle slaughter should be stopped and the majority of the people in the country are also against it.

I fight for the rights and liberation of all animals oppressed by human tyranny, but anyone who knows anything about me knows I have a special affinity for cats. I have, do, and always will care for as many rescue cats as come my way (it seems most find me, rather than the other way around). I don’t trust people who dislike cats — I find they lack sensitivity, depth, aesthetic appreciation, and respect for autonomy.

I have always thought there was a unique relation between artists and cats (although obviously many artists past and present have loved and shared warm relations with dogs and other animals), because cats are sleek, graceful, independent, mysterious, and possess so many other admirable qualities that would naturally appeal to the artist sensibility.

It has always seemed to me, for instance, that cats are proper material for poetry (e.g., Charles Baudelaire’s many gorgeous sonnets to cats), while dogs are more suitable subjects of short stories (e.g., Thomas Mann’s story, “A Man and His Dog,” as collected in his book, Death in Venice). But don’t hold me to that in any firm or absolute way.

To the point: below is a marvelous collection of vignettes of famous writers who loved cats and truly appreciated their singularly beautiful and spiritual qualities. I learned a lot from this article and gained new appreciation for many writers (although Hemingway’s affection for cats hardly redeems him in my eyes, given his bloodlust for hunting and bullfighting). The stories, pictures, quotes, and writing selections are priceless, and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

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From Buzzfeed

Cats – with all their mysteriousness and adorableness and softness – have served as muses for some of the most brilliant writers in the world for centuries. Some notable examples, amazing pictures, and charming quotes from 30 of the best kitty/writer combo deals.

Jean Cocteau

Jean Cocteau

Source: writersandkitties.tumblr.com

French poet, novelist, and filmmaker (as well as playwright, designer, and artist) Jean Cocteau is most famous for his novel Les Enfants terribles (The Holy Terrors) and his films, including Blood of a PoetBeauty and the Beast, and Orpheus. He was also famous for being part of elite social circle that included Pablo Picasso, Kenneth Anger, Coco Chanel, Marlene Dietrich, and Édith Piaf.

Cocteau was additionally a cat devotee who helped to found a club in Paris called the “Cat Friends Club” that had a membership pin and sponsored cat shows. Conclusion: Jean Cocteau would have been my ideal friend when I was twelve years old (and also now).

The Cat Friends Club membership pin designed by Jean Cocteau. Via: anamontielblog.blogspot.com

“I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.”

- Jean Cocteau

Jean Cocteau and artist Tsuguharu Foujita with an award winning cat, at a cat show sponsored by the “Cat Friends” Club of Paris Source: catladiesproject.blogspot.com

Stephen King

Stephen King

Via: writersandkitties.tumblr.com

Horror, fantasy, and science-fiction author Stephen King has written 49 novels, nine collections of short stories, and five non-fiction books. He is also well-known for the many films based on his work, including The ShiningStand By Me, and Pet Semetary. Despite once writing in a short story that “it might be that the biggest division in the world isn’t men and women but folks who like cats and folks who like dogs,” it seems that the King family does in fact keep both cats and dogs as pets. Note that the cat in these (awesome) photos is wearing a name tag that reads “Clovis,” the name used in King’s screenplay Sleepwalkers for a cat who [spoilers] saves the day.

“Cats were the gangsters of the animal world, living outside the law and often dying there. There were a great many of them who never grew old by the fire.”

- Stephen King, Pet Semetary

Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman

Source: writersandkitties.tumblr.com

Neil Gaiman, author of novels, short fiction, graphic novels, and more, is perhaps most well-known for his comic book series The Sandman, his young adult novelCoraline, his novel American Gods, and for being a total badass and a god among the best of nerds.

Neil Gaiman also really, really, really loves cats. He has multiple cats and often chronicles their adventures on his blog. The cats he’s had recently include Coconut, Hermione, Pod, Zoe, and the imitable Princess, who Gaiman describes thusly:

“I’ve grown so used to having a bad-tempered but beautiful cat that I need to warn visitors about. She’s outlasted all the cats I loved and all the cats I bonded with.

And I think she’s grown very used to me.

When Zoe died, it was really easy to explain to people how much you could miss a sweet, gentle cat who was nothing but a ball of utter love. I’m going to have a much harder time one day, months or even years from now, explaining why I miss the meanest, grumpiest and most dangerous cat I’ve ever encountered.”

Neil with Zoe, who recently passed away. Via: journal.neilgaiman.com

Neil on Zoe: “And I’m wondering what it is about this small blind cat that inspires such behaviour — mine, Olga’s, Lorraine’s…. I’ve had cats in this house for 18 years, and there are cat-graves down by gazebo. Two cats died of old age last year. It wasn’t like this. I think it may be the love. Hers, once given, was yours, unconditionally and utterly.”

Jean Paul Sartre

Jean Paul Sartre

Source: writersandkitties.tumblr.com

Existentialist philosopher and author Jean Paul Sartre was a key figure in Marxism and 20th century french philosophy whose main thrust was that humans are “condemned to be free.” He did not believe that humans had a creator, and thought that we were fully responsible for our actions – “we are left alone, without excuse.”

Although Sartre’s relationship with cats isn’t well-documented, he is seen above holding a very handsome feline while at work. Sartre was also one of the obvious inspirations for Henri, the existential cat, and it is thought possible that all cats are, by nature, existentialists.

Source: youtube.com

Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac

Via: posterrevolution.com

Jack Kerouac, author of On The Road, was a poet and novelist who was a pioneer of the “beat generation” and was famous for his spontaneous, free-flowing style and autobiographical honesty. He was an underground celebrity during his tragically short life (he died at age 47 of internal bleeding due to alcohol abuse), and has been a hero to teenagers and iconoclasts ever since.

Jack also loved cats, especially his cat Tyke, whose unfortunate passing he wrote about in loving detail in his memoir Big Sur.

“The next sign is in Frisco itself where after a night of perfect sleep in an old skid row hotel room I go to see Monsanto at his City Lights bookstore and he’s smiling and glad to see me, says ‘We were coming out to see you next weekend you should have waited,’ but there something else in his expression — When we’re alone he says, ‘Your mother wrote and said your cat is dead.’

Ordinarily the death of a cat means little to most men, a lot to fewer men, but to me, and that cat, it was exactly and no lie and sincerely like the death of my little brother — I loved Tyke with all my heart, he was my baby who as a kitten just slept in the palm of my hand and with his little head hanging down, or just purring for hours, just as long as I held him that way, walking or sitting — He was like a floppy fur wrap around my wrist, I just twist him around my wrist or drape him and he just purred and purred and even when he got big I still held him that way, I could even hold that big cat in both hands with my arms outstretched right over my head and he’d just purr, he had complete confidence in me — and when I’d left New York to come to my retreat in the woods I’d carefully kissed him and instructed him to wait for me ‘Attends pour mue kitigingoo’ — But my mother said in the letter he had died the NIGHT AFTER I LEFT.”

“Holding up my
purring cat to the moon
I sighed.”

- Jack Kerouac, American Haiku, 1959

Edward Gorey

Edward Gorey

Source: writersandkitties.tumblr.com

Edward Gorey, known for his macabre, gothic illustrated books including The Gashlycrumb Tinies and The Doubtful Guest, as well as for illustrating for others’ books such as T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.

Gorey’s personal diaries were feline-focused from a young age; one which dates back to March 20, 1938, reads “Kittens OK! Kittens 11 days old. Tiger kitten has one eye open. Awful cute.”

“It would be wrong to say that cats weren’t his first love,” said Ken Morton, Gorey’s cousin. “[Edward] said a few times that he liked cats more than people. He considered them his family.”

Source: full-stop.net

“Books. Cats. Life is good.”

- Edward Gorey

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway

Via: brainpickings.org

American author Ernest Hemingway published novels, journalism, and short stories, many of which are considered classics of American literature, including The Old Man And The SeaA Farewell To Arms, and For Whom The Bell Tolls. He was a World War I veteran who was known for his hard-edged, masculine approach. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954.

Hemingway’s first cat, Snowball, was six-toed, and the author’s former home in Key West houses dozens of Snowball’s descendants – about half of which are also six-toed. Some people even refer to polydactyl (six-toed) cats as “Hemingway cats.” By the late ’40s, Hemingway had as many as 23 cats at any given time, and was known to refer to them as “purr factories” and “love sponges.”

In 1953, Hemingway’s cat Uncle Willie was hit by a car. He wrote a heartbreaking letter to his friend Giangranco Ivancich about his decision to put the animal out of his misery.

“Dear Gianfranco:

Just after I finished writing you and was putting the letter in the envelope Mary came down from the Torre and said, ‘Something terrible has happened to Willie.’ I went out and found Willie with both his right legs broken: one at the hip, the other below the knee. A car must have run over him or somebody hit him with a club. He had come all the way home on the two feet of one side. It was a multiple compound fracture with much dirt in the wound and fragments protruding. But he purred and seemed sure that I could fix it.

I had René get a bowl of milk for him and René held him and caressed him and Willie was drinking the milk while I shot him through the head. I don’t think he could have suffered and the nerves had been crushed so his legs had not begun to really hurt. Monstruo wished to shoot him for me, but I could not delegate the responsibility or leave a chance of Will knowing anybody was killing him…

Have had to shoot people but never anyone I knew and loved for eleven years. Nor anyone that purred with two broken legs.”

“A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.”

- Ernest Hemingway

Edith Södergran

Edith Södergran

Source: writersandkitties.tumblr.com

Edith Södergran was a Swedish-speaking Finnish poet, and one of the first modernists in Swedish literature. Edith was just 24 when she released her first collection of poems, Dikter. She died at age 31 after complications from the tuberculosis she contracted as a teenager.

“Of all our sunny world
I wish only for a garden sofa
where a cat is sunning itself.

There I should sit
with a letter at my breast,
a single small letter.
That is what my dream looks like.”

- Edith Södergran, A Wish, translated by David McDuff

A photo by Edith, of her beloved cats. Via: polarbearstale.blogspot.com

In Ozero Roshino, Russia, where she spent her summers, stands a monument to Södergran’s favorite cat Totti. Via:members.virtualtourist.com

“I have a luck cat in my arms,
it spins threads of luck.
Luck cat, luck cat,
make for me three things:
make for me a golden ring,
to tell me that I am lucky;
make for me a mirror
to tell me that I am beautiful;
make for me a fan
to waft away my cumbersome thoughts.
Luck cat, luck cat,
spin for me some news of my future!”

- Edith Södergran, Luck Cat, translated by David McDuff

William S. Burroughs

William S. Burroughs

Source: writersandkitties.tumblr.com

Postmodern novelist, short story writer, spoken word performer, and essayist William Burroughs is widely influential in both literature and pop culture, declared by Norman Mailer as “the only American writer who may be conceivably possessed by genius.” He wrote semi-autobiographical and memoir, drawing on his experiences as a heroin addict and his world travels. His most famous book, Naked Lunch, underwent a court case due to the U.S.’s anti-sodomy laws of the time.

Burroughs was a devout cat lover who called them his “psychic companions,” and described them as “natural enemies of the state.” He wrote a book, The Cat Inside, where he wrote lovingly of his companions such as Calico Jane, Fletch, Rooski, Wimpy, and Ed.

Source: lawrence.com

Burroughs perfectly summarizes why cats > dogs:

“Like most qualities, cuteness is delineated by what it isn’t. Most people aren’t cute at all, or if so they quickly outgrow their cuteness … Elegance, grace, delicacy, beauty, and a lack of self-consciousness: a creature who knows he is cute soon isn’t.”

-William S. Burroughs, The Cat Inside

“The cat does not offer services. The cat offers itself.”

- William S. Burroughs, The Cat Inside

Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe

Drawing of Poe and cat by Charles Smeldon Via: writersandkitties.tumblr.com

Most famous for his short stories and poems, Edgar Allan Poe was an integral part of the American romantic movement, was one of the earliest American short story writers, and is believed to have basically invented the “detective fiction” genre. His interest in mystery and the macabre have led to his tales being celebrated as among the best “scary stories” of all time, beloved by children and goths alike to this day.

“I wish I could write as mysterious as a cat.”

- Edgar Allan Poe

Poe was a cat lover and he and his wife/cousin Virginia had a cat named Catterina. One of his scariest stories, The Black Cat, tells the story of a narrator who loved his cat Pluto until he came home drunk, tries to grab at his cat, and gets a nip in return. The storyteller gouges out the cat’s eye with a pen knife and eventually hangs it in the garden. The cat’s doppelganger makes his way back into their life and enacts a slow revenge, eventually driving the man so crazy that he kills his wife with an axe in a fit of rage. When the police investigate the murder, a wailing cat leads them to his wife’s corpse, and the man is caught and condemned. Justice!

Tove Jansson

Tove Jansson

Source: writersandkitties.tumblr.com

Finnish author, illustrator, and comic-strip author Tove Jansson is best known for herMoomin series of books for children and comic strips, which feature sweet, nature and adventure loving, whimsically illustrated creatures populating their own Moomin-world. She also wrote several books for adults, including The Summer Book, about a six-year-old girl living with her grandmother on a tiny island in the gulf of Finland.

An excerpt from The Cat,, a chapter from The Summer Book by Tove Jansson:

“It was a tiny kitten when it came and could drink its milk only from a nipple. Fortunately, they still had Sophia’s baby bottle in the attic. In the beginning, the kitten slept in a tea cozy to keep warm, but when it found its legs they let it sleep in the cottage in Sophia’s bed. It had its own pillow, next to hers.

It was a gray fisherman’s cat and it grew fast. One day, it left the cottage and moved into the house, where it spent its nights under the bed in the box where they kept the dirty dishes. It had odd ideas of its own even then. Sophia carried the cat back to the cottage and tried as hard as she could to ingratiate herself, but the more love she gave it, the quicker it fled back to the dish box. When the box got too full, the cat would howl and someone would have to wash the dishes. Its name was Ma Petite, but they called it Moppy.

“It’s funny about love,” Sophia said. “The more you love someone, the less he likes you back.”

“That’s very true,” Grandmother observed. “And so what do you do?”

“You go on loving,” said Sophia threateningly. “You love harder and harder.”

[read the rest of this wonderful vignette]

Colette

Colette

Via: certosino.wordpress.com

Colette was a French novelist, most famous for her novel Gigi, which was adapted even more famously for stage and screen. She was also notoriously sensuous, having numerous affairs with both women and men, including her second husband’s son. She also “discovered” Audrey Hepburn when she cast the then unknown actress on sight to play the lead in Gigi after she saw her walking across the lobby of a hotel.

She has also been described as “the original Cat Woman,” and had a lifelong love affair with cats. She also loved dogs, after growing up surrounded by animals brought to the house by her mother, who “boasted of her ability to housebreak pets and children.” Colette wrote a novel entitled “The Cat,” which is about the engagement and honeymoon of a couple who is divided over the man’s helpless devotion to his cat, Saha. Colette’s cat lover, Alain, muses in the book “It wasn’t just a little cat I was carrying at that moment,” Alain mused. “It was the incarnate nobility of the whole cat race, her limitless indifference, her tact, her bond of union with the human aristocrat.”

“There are no ordinary cats.”

- Colette

“My cat does not talk as respectfully to me as I do to her.”

- Colette

Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler

Source: diario.latercera.com

Raymond Chandler got his start as a writer at age 44, after being fired from his oil company job during the Depression. His first novel, The Big Sleep, was published in 1939 and introduced the first-person narrator/detective Philip Marlowe, who would become famous and be featured in many of Chandler’s later books. He continued to publish shorts stories and novels throughout the ’40s and ’50s, but also began collaborating on screenplays including Double IndemnityStrangers on a Train, andThe Blue Dahlia.

Chandler was an avid cat fancier who often wrote about his cats and even wrote letters as his cat, Taki. An excerpt (Taki writing to one of Chandler’s friend’s feline companions): “Come around sometime when your face is clean and we shall discuss the state of the world, the foolishness of humans, the prevalence of horsemeat, although we prefer the tenderloin side of a porterhouse, and our common difficulty in getting doors opened at the right time and meals served at more frequent intervals. I have got my staff up to five a day, but there is still room for improvement.”

Raymond Chandler’s agent H.N. Swanson, said that Chandler’s cat “‘knew more about him than anybody else.”

“I said something which gave you to think I hated cats. But gad, sir, I am one of the most fanatical cat lovers in the business. If you hate them, I may learn to hate you. If your allergies hate them, I will tolerate the situation to the best of my ability.”

-Raymond Chandler, in another letter

William Carlos Williams

William Carlos Williams

Source: writersandkitties.tumblr.com

Poet and doctor William Carlos Williams “worked harder at being a writer than he did at being a physician,” but miraculously managed both. He began as a member of the Imagist movement, a group of poets in the early 20th century who were devoted to “clarity of expression through the use of precise visual images.” Later, he experimented with new techniques and influences, eventually settling on a unique personal style that centered on the daily life of ‘common’ people.

“Outside, the north wind, coming and passing, swelling and dying, lifts the frozen sand drives it a-rattle against the lidless windows and we may dear sit stroking the cat stroking the cat and smiling sleepily, prrrr.”

- William Carlos Williams

“As the cat
climbed over
the top of

the jamcloset
first the right
forefoot

carefully
then the hind
stepped down
into the pit of
the empty
flowerpot”

-William Carlos Williams, Poem (As the cat)

Truman Capote

Truman Capote

Source: writersandkitties.tumblr.com

Truman Capote, American author of short stories, novels, nonfiction, and plays – including Breakfast At Tiffany’s and the true-crime novel In Cold Blood. He was a great friend of author Harper Lee and they often helped one another on projects, including Capote serving as inspiration for the character Dill in To Kill A Mockingbird. Capote was openly homosexual and an active socialite. Gore Vidal was quoted as saying “Truman Capote has tried, with some success, to get into a world that I have tried, with some success, to get out of.”

Although Capote’s own cat love isn’t well documented, the nameless feline inBreakfast At Tiffany’s plays a major part in the heart of the story. Holly sums up the novella nicely with the quote “If I could find a real-life place that made me feel like Tiffany’s, then I’d buy some furniture and give the cat a name.”

“She was still hugging the cat. “Poor slob,” she said, tickling his head, “poor slob without a name. It’s a little inconvenient, his not having a name. But I haven’t any right to give him one: He’ll have to wait until he belongs to somebody. We just sort of hooked up by the river one day, we don’t belong to each other. He’s an independent, and so am I. I don’t want to own anything until I know I’ve found a place where me and things belong together.”

-Truman Capote, Breakfat At Tiffany’s

George Plimpton

George Plimpton

Source: writersandkitties.tumblr.com

Journalist/writer/editor/actor George Plimpton co-founded the Paris Review and was particularly well known for his immersive take on sports writing, often involving himself competing in professional sporting events and then recording the event. He pitched an exhibition game for the American League, on a team managed by Mickey Mantle, attended pre-season training and played in a scrimmage for the Detroit Lions of the NFL, trained in a National Hockey League preseason game as a goalie, and sparred for three rounds with Sugar Ray Robinson while working for Sports Illustrated.

The cat pictured above was named Mr. Puss. Goerge’s son Taylor recalled that “my father enjoyed nothing more than holding the beast high in the ait and making strange, affectionate sounds in that distinguished voice: “Yeanngghh, Puss… Yeaannngh Puss Puss Puss.”

Hermann Hesse

Hermann Hesse

Source: writersandkitties.tumblr.com

Hermann Hesse – novelist, poet, and painter – most famous for writing the spiritual journey of Siddhartha and the semi-autobiographical Steppenwolf. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946. At the time of his death, Hesse was practically unknown in the United States, but in the mid-’60s, Hesse’s works became bestsellers, celebrated among the counter-culture hippie movement.

I could not find a scrap of information regarding Hesse and his cat, but I do know that these two pictures of him with a feline friend make me smile.

“There is a single magic, a single power, a single salvation, and a single happiness, and that is called loving.”

- Hermann Hesse

Peter Matthiessen

Peter Matthiessen

Source: writersandkitties.tumblr.com

Non-fiction author, environmental activist, and novelist Peter Matthiessen is perhaps best known for a book that is sort of about cats – but not of the household variety. His book The Snow Leopard, about a journey in the company of zoologist George Schaller into the heart of the Himalayas, seeking the snow leopard, a creature so rarely spotted as to be nearly mythical. Matthiessen never actually sees a snow leopard and mused “we’ve seen so much, maybe it’s better if there are some things that we don’t see.”

Julio Cortázar

Julio Cortázar

Source: writersandkitties.tumblr.com

Argentine novelist, essayist, and short story writer Julio Cortázar has been called “a modern master of the short story” and was known as one of the founders of the ‘Latin American Boom’ that brought latin literature to a much broader audience in Europe and America – a movement which also included Gabriel García Márquez, Carlos Fuentes, Jorge Luis Borges, and Pablo Neruda. Cortázar was known for his use of interior monologue and stream of consciousness, and he was interested in surrealist art, and improvisatory jazz. His most famous novel is Hopscotch.

Cortázar was a cat lover who owned a cat named Theodor W. Adorno who he wrote about extensively in the book Around the Day in Eighty Worlds.

“I sometimes longed for someone who, like me, had not adjusted perfectly with his age, and such a person was hard to find; but I soon discovered cats, in which I could imagine a condition like mine, and books, where I found it quite often.”

- Julio Cortázar, Around the Day in Eighty Worlds

Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath

A young Sylvia Plath with her cat, “Daddy.” Via: kitapcafe.com

Sylvia Plath was an American poet, novelist, and short story author who suffered from depression and wrote extensively about her illness. Her work was confessional and raw. She married fellow poet Ted Hughes in 1956 and their marriage was famously tumultious; she committed suicide in 1963, at age 30.

Although Plath’s relationship with cats isn’t well-documented, her recently (2011) unearthed drawings included the charming depiction of a “curious french cat,” below.

A drawing by Sylvia Plath Source: i.telegraph.co.uk

W.H. Auden

W.H. Auden

Source: writersandkitties.tumblr.com

The poet Wystan Hugh Auden, born in England but later an American citizen, is regarded by many as one of the greatest poets of the 20th century. He also wrote essays and reviews. Auden published over four hundred poems, including two book-length long form works, and also including ballads, limericks, doggerel, haiku, villanelles, and baroque eclogue. He began writing poems at age thirteen, discovered T.S. Eliot at age 18, and wrote the first of his poems that would later be published at age 20.

“Cats can be very funny, and have the oddest ways of showing they’re glad to see you. Rudimace always peed in our shoes.”

-W.H. Auden

Via: amazon.com

“Pangur, white Pangur,
How happy we are
Alone together, Scholar and cat.
Each has his own work to do daily;
For you it is hunting, for me, study.
Your shining eye watches the wall;
My feeble eye is fixed on a book.
You rejoice when your claws entrap a mouse;
I rejoice when my mind fathoms a problem.
Pleased with his own art
Neither hinders the other;
Thus we live ever
Without tedium and envy.
Pangur, white Pangur,
How happy we are,
Alone together, Scholar and cat.”

-The Monk and His Cat, adapted by W. H. Auden from an 8th or 9th century anonymous Irish text

Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates

Source: writersandkitties.tumblr.com

Joyce Carol Oates is an American author who has published over fifty novels. She also writes poetry, nonfiction, and short stories. Her novels Black WaterWhat I Lived For, and Blonde (a fictional biography of Marilyn Monroe) were all nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and her novel them won the National Book Award in 1969. She is a professor at Princeton.

“I write so much because my cat sits on my lap. She purrs so I don’t want to get up. She’s so much more calming than my husband.”

- Joyce Carol Oates

Doris Lessing

Doris Lessing

Source: writersandkitties.tumblr.com

Novelist, poet, playwright, short story writer, and biographer Doris May Lessing was born in Iran (then Persia) to English parents who lived in Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia) as a child. She was self-educated from age 14 on, and began work as a nursemaid when she was just 15 years old. She began writing after taking an interest in communist politics and sociology. Later on, she adopted the Sufi religion and wrote a series of science fiction novels called the “Canopus in Argos” series.

Lessing became fascinated by cats at a young age, when she came across the semi-feral felines on the African farm where she grew up. As an adult, she had many cats, notably the awkwardly majestic El Magnifico, who she wrote about lovingly in the short memoir The Old Age of El Magnifico. When asked about her efforts to communicate with cats in an interview, she said “the cat I communicated with best was El Magnifico. He was such a clever cat. We used to have sessions when we tried to be on each other’s level. He knew we were trying. When push came to shove, though, the communication was pretty limited.”

“What a luxury a cat is, the moments of shocking and startling pleasure in a day, the feel of the beast, the soft sleekness under your palm, the warmth when you wake on a cold night, the grace and charm even in a quite ordinary workaday puss. Cat walks across your room, and in that lonely stalk you see leopard or even panther, or it turns its head to acknowledge you and the yellow blaze of those eyes tells you what an exotic visitor you have here, in this household friend, the cat who purrs as you stroke, or rub his chin, or scratch his head.”

- Doris Lessing, The Old Age of El Magnifico

Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick

Source: writersandkitties.tumblr.com

Science-fiction master Philip K. Dick wrote novels, short stories, and essays which explored transcendental experiences, metaphyics, theology, sociology, and politics. Although Dick was never all that successful financially while he was alive, ten of his works have been made into a variety of successful films, including Blad RunnerTotal RecallA Scanner Darkly, and Minority Report.

Not much is known about PKD’s cat, but his name was Magnificat!

Patricia Highsmith

Patricia Highsmith

Via: redredshoes.blogspot.com

Patricia Highsmith, 1921-1995, wrote widely-acclaimed psychological thrillers, including Strangers On A Train, famously adapted by Alfred Hitchcock in 1951, andThe Talented Mr. Ripley. The protagonist/serial murderer in the latter, Tom Ripley, was featured in four more novels by Highsmith, known as the ‘Ripliad.’

Highsmith was an animal lover who kept pets of both cats and hundreds of pet snails. Urich Weber, the curator of Highsmith’s archive, once explained that “she was very happy among cats. They gave her a closeness that she could not bear in the long-term from people. She needed cats for her psychological balance.”

“Everything human is alien to me.”

-Patricia Highsmith

Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson

A statue in tribute to Johnson’s beloved cat, Hodge Via: katherinebarber.blogspot.com

Devout Anglican and English author Samuel Johnson wrote poetry, essays, criticisms, and published A Dictionary of the English Language in 1755, described as “one of the greatest single achievements of scholarship.” Johnson was also very famous for his critical philosophy, and his belief that the best poetry relied on contemporary language (as opposed to purposefully old-timey/decorative verse). He was also the subject of perhaps the most famous biography of all time, James Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson, which is among the works that have described Johnson’s odd tics and gestures in sich a way that has led to a posthumous diagnosis of Tourette syndrome.

In Boswell’s biography of Johnson, he describes the great thinker’s relationship with his cat, Hodge. “Nor would it be just, under this head, to omit the fondness which he showed for animals which he had taken under his protection. I never shall forget the indulgence with which he treated Hodge, his cat: for whom he himself used to go out and buy oysters, lest the servants having that trouble should take a dislike to the poor creature. I am, unluckily, one of those who have an antipathy to a cat, so that I am uneasy when in the room with one; and I own, I frequently suffered a good deal from the presence of this same Hodge. I recollect him one day scrambling up Dr. Johnson’s breast, apparently with much satisfaction, while my friend smiling and half-whistling, rubbed down his back, and pulled him by the tail; and when I observed he was a fine cat, saying, ‘Why yes, Sir, but I have had cats whom I liked better than this;’ and then as if perceiving Hodge to be out of countenance, adding, ‘but he is a very fine cat, a very fine cat indeed.’”

Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Luis Borges

Via: pasolininuc.blogspot.com

Jorge Luis Borges was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and wrote short-stories, essays, and poems, including the acclaimed books Ficciones and The Aleph, compilations of interconnected short stories that are bound by themes of dreams, labyrinths, animals, mirrors, and God. He is known as a “magical realist,” and was in fact the first author described using that term, by critic Angel Flores. Writer J.M. Coetzee said of Borges that “he, more than anyone, renovated the language of fiction and thus opened the way to a remarkable generation of Spanish American novelists.”

“Mirrors are not more silent
nor the creeping dawn more secretive;
in the moonlight, you are that panther
we catch sight of from afar.
By the inexplicable workings of a divine law,
we look for you in vain;
More remote, even, than the Ganges or the setting sun,
yours is the solitude, yours the secret.
Your haunch allows the lingering
caress of my hand. You have accepted,
since that long forgotten past,
the love of the distrustful hand.
You belong to another time. You are lord
of a place bounded like a dream.”

-Jorge Luis Borges, To A Cat

Jacques Derrida

Jacques Derrida

Via: weimarart.blogspot.com

Celebrated postmodern French philosopher Jacques Derrida developed a form of analysis known as “deconstruction,” which involved the assertion that all writing was full of confusion because of the inherent contradictions of language itself. Deconstruction requires thinking in a dual way about everything, analyzing and breaking down the conceptual opposites in language, art, and, ethics. In the ’90s, Derrida’s work took a turn towards ethics, such as in The Gift of Death, when he began to apply the principles of deconstructionism in interpreting passages from the bible. Derrida wrote in a paper in 1993 that “deconstruction, if there is such a thing, takes place as the experience of the impossible.”

Jacques Derrida was – unsurprisingly to anyone who has pieced together a semblance of an understanding of both deconstructionism and cats – a cat person. He wrote extensively of the feline gaze in an essay (originally delivered as a ten-hour lecture) titled The Animal That Therefore I Am (More to Follow)’. The essay focuses on a moment when a “real cat, truly, believe me, a little cat” catches the philosopher in the bathroom as he steps out of the shower and ‘stares’ at him, which causes Derrida to question the logic and ethics of establishing or assuming a boundary that distinguishes the human from the animal. He wrote at the end of that lecture “The same question then becomes whether I should show myself but in the process see myself naked (that is reflect my image in a mirror) when, concerning me, looking at me, is this living creature, this cat than can find itself caught in the same mirror? Is there animal narcissism? But cannot this cat also be, deep within her eyes, my primary mirror?”

Charles Bukowski

Charles Bukowski

Via: ttexshexes.blogspot.com

German-born American Charles Bukowski was a poet, novelist, and short story writer who was influenced by the ordinary lives of lower-class Americans, alcohol, women, and drudgery. Bukowski was described by Time in 1986 as the “laureate of American lowlife.” He wrote thousands of works, publishing over sixty books, many of them focusing on his home, the city of Los Angeles. His most famous books include his many poetry collections, plus the novels FactotumHam on Rye and Women.

He also loved cats and was quoted as saying that “having a bunch of cats around is good. If you’re feeling bad, you just look at the cats, you’ll feel better, because they know everything is, just as it is. There’s nothing to get excited about. They just know. They’re saviors. The more cats you have, the longer you live. If you have a hundred cats, you’ll live ten times longer than if you have ten. Someday this will be discovered, and people will have a thousand cats and live forever. It’s truly ridiculous.”

“I know. I know.
they are limited, have different
needs and
concerns.

but I watch and learn from them.
I like the little they know,
which is so
much.

they complain but never
worry,
they walk with a surprising dignity.
they sleep with a direct simplicity that
humans just can’t
understand.

their eyes are more
beautiful than our eyes.
and they can sleep 20 hours
a day
without
hesitation or
remorse.

when I am feeling
low
all I have to do is
watch my cats
and my
courage
returns.

I study these
creatures.

they are my
teachers.”

-Charles Bukowski, My Cats

Mark Twain

Mark Twain

Source: writersandkitties.tumblr.com

Samuel Clemens, pen-name Mark Twain, is one of the best-known American authors and humorists in history, most famous among many other works for writing the booksThe Adventures of Tom Sawyer and its even more acclaimed and revered ‘sequel’Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Twain also penned numerous short stories and essays, and was described by William Faulkner as “the father of American literature,” a label that few seem to debate.

Mark Twain was also rather besotted with cats. In 1898, Twain’s relationship with his cats was reported “Twain would call the cats to ‘come up’ on the chair, and they would all jump up on the seat. He would tell them to ‘go to sleep,’ and instantly the group were all fast asleep. They would remain so until he called ‘Wide awake!’ when in a twinkling up would go their ears and wide open their eyes.”

“When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction.”

-Mark Twain

“I simply can’t resist a cat, particularly a purring one. They are the cleanest, cunningest, and most intelligent things I know, outside of the girl you love, of course.”

-Mark Twain

Another hopeful sign of how moral progress and animal advocacy continues in the 21st century version of the “cultural revolution” in contemporary China.

************************************************

MSN News, May 22

 China animal cruelty: A farmed brown bear with a metal corset

Courtesy of Peter Li. In China, bears are kept in tight cages and farmed for their bile.

More and more Chinese, especially young people, are calling out cruel practices, such as bear bile farming, in China.

Bile extracted from caged bears. Stray animals abused and neglected. Sharks‘ fins lopped off for soup.

Most people’s perception of China’s animal rights record is as grim as the fates of some of the animals living there. But a movement has quietly risen to challenge that.

“‘Animal welfare’ was a foreign term,” Peter Li, who works in China for Humane Society International, told MSN News in an e-mail. “It is now a well-known concept in China.”

In February, China Daily reported that the China Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine said at a press conference that “the process of extracting bear bile was as easy, natural and painless as turning on a tap. After the operation was done, bears went out to play happily.”

Bear bile is used in cosmetics and for medicinal purposes, such as preventing gallstones, but experts disagree over whether it works.

China animal cruelty: School children protest animal cruelty.

Courtesy of Peter Li. Young people in China have been particularly active in protesting animal cruelty.

After the association’s comments, a video went viral in China showing a much less sunny version of the bile extraction process. Animals Asia says the practice is cruel and invasive.

“Over the years, the campaign against bear bile farming has often been a sensitive one, but today it is clear that the issue is finally mainstream and even schools are engaged and involved, with support and numbers growing all the time,” Animals Asia Founder and CEO Jill Robinson said in a statement.

That response is one sign of a larger animal-welfare movement in China, Li believes. He said the country has “changed beyond recognition.”

According to Li, ordinary people in China, especially young people, are pressuring the government for anti-cruelty legislation. Even pet ownership has changed. Li said that regulations on pet ownership have softened and that dog culling has abated.

“The movement is strong and will grow stronger,” he wrote.

It’s not just young people motivating the changes. Animal rights in China has been endorsed by some of the country’s best-known celebrities.

Jackie Chan . . . has been speaking for tiger protection and against cruelty to farm bears,” Li wrote. “Yao Ming . . . is a towering moral figure. He calls on the Chinese people to stay away from shark fin soup, from ivory products and bear bile products.”

China animal cruelty: A government cat shelter in China

Courtesy of Peter Li. Stray animals are often abused in China, but that is changing now.

Groups like Humane Society International and Animals Asia are still pushing, however.

“The explosion of newspaper, TV, radio and Internet stories in China about bear bile farming has seen a massive online outcry demanding justice for the bears,” Robinson said. She said in the statement that when Animals Asia was working on its campaign against bear bile farming, the group was “inundated by people who wanted to take part.”

But Li sees a lot more work ahead if things like bear bile farms and the hunting of endangered species is going to end.

“A lot needs to be done, admittedly,” he said. “But, today, it causes a strong reaction when animal abuse is exposed.”

 Steven Best

(This piece was originally written for my good friend Adam, and earlier published on his blog, OccupyEssays)

“I’d like to share with you a revelation I’ve had, during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you aren’t actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with its surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply, and multiply until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You are a plague.” Agent Smith, The Matrix (1999)

This essay tells a story. It is more than a little story, it is one of the biggest stories of all — the story of how humans evolved from one of the weakest to the most dangerous animal on the planet, from hunted to hunter, from vulnerable prey to top predator. This is the amazing saga of how one species became the first and only global species and in a very short time built a vast empire that has colonized the planet for need and greed, has created a new geological epoch – the human-dominated Anthropocene Era — and is threatening to bring down the planetary house.

Like all empires, the human empire rose, had glorious triumphs, but ultimately was a decadent and unsustainable colossus; and thus it also dies, ebbs, declines, and falls like the rest. But much more is at stake in this drama than an imperialist state and its colonies, for here we are talking about the entire species of Homo sapiens and its impact on biodiversity and the ecological dynamics of the planet as a whole.

 There is no scientific consensus to this story; there are, rather, a thousand narratives of the origins of Homo sapiens and the proper taxonomical tables and nomenclature. The prevailing cacophony of dispute arises partly for the empirical reasons (the science is uncertain and always changing), and also for political reasons (scientists, researchers, and historians have vested interests in challenging competing narratives and validating their own discoveries and narratives). Uncertainties aside, grasping the outlines of the human past are critical for understanding what kind of animal we are, illuminating the causes of current social and ecological crises, and creating viable future societies — if indeed such a project is still possible in a significant sense.

 Out of Africa and Out of Control

Our earliest ancestors evolved from an independent branch of the primate tree some 5-7 million years ago. Pressured by climate changes, they moved out of the Eastern and Southern forests of Africa and into the savannas where for various reasons they stood up on two legs and evolved into bipedal animals. These Australopithecines were 3 feet tall, hairy, ape-men — like apes in their relatively small brain size, and like humans in walking upright. After 2-3 million years, various australopithecine types evolved into diverse variations of the Homo genus, including species such as Homo habilis, Homo heidelbergensis, Homo erectus, Homo neanderthalensis, and Homo sapiens, and Homo sapiens sapiens (behaviorally modern, language-speaking humans). Along this dynamic, variegated evolutionary path, hominid brains grew increasingly large; their technologies and cultures became ever more sophisticated; and their populations continuously expanded in size and geographical reach as their ecological impact became more and more severe.

 There is no consensus on key questions, such as: What is the proper taxonomical language to characterize humans in relation to other primates? What alleged Homo types were true species rather than sub-species? What Homo species co-existed, and when? Did they evolve as one species in a linear fashion, as the “Out of Africa” thesis argues, or did various Homo types co-evolve and leave Africa at different times and in many migrations, as the “Multiregional” theory claims?[1]

 Whatever the diversity of human types and subsequent migration patterns, about 100,000 years ago (there is no consensus on this date either) Homo sapiens left the African continent to explore a vast, unknown world in which continents were conjoined by ice sheets. They migrated to Europe, Asia, Australia, Siberia, Indonesia, and into the Americas, establishing their empire throughout the globe. All the time multiplying, diversifying, and scattering across the continents, humans wasted no time in colonizing the world from north to south and from east to west.

Just one among tens of millions of existing animal species – many already dispatched to oblivion, thousands currently poised on the end, and thousands yet on the brink of extinction and some yet to be discovered – Homo sapiens has risen from humble mammalian and primate origins to become the most dominant, violent, predatory, and destructive animal on the planet. Nearly everywhere it journeyed and lived, Homo sapiens wrought social and ecological devastation, extinction crises, and chronic warfare.  View full article »

Monkeys apparently have identified the enemy primate who is encroaching on their territory and exploiting and killing other primates for entertainment, “research,” and bush meat. The articles below provides some provocative evidence than other animals are intelligent, rebel against human dominance, attack humans with violent intent, and do so in deliberative and reflective ways. 

From my own experience in visiting South Africa on numerous occasions, I can confirm that baboons are crafty, cunning, strong, and formidable animals who do indeed invade and ransack homes, steal food, pounce on cars, and attack if provoked or angry.

May this be the beginning of an advanced struggle that topples the Human Reich and returns the planet to the control of superior primates, to the planet of the apes.

Primates of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your habitats, cages, and chains!

Connor Simpson, The Atlantic Wire, February 3, 2013

We always knew this day would come. Someone call Charlton Heston. The real rise of the planet of the apes has begun in Saudi Arabia. A group of baboons are terrorizing a village with coordinated attacks on empty houses. The Arab News reports a “minor war” has broken out between the residents of the village Kiad in Saudi Arabia, and the baboons that inhabit the nearby mountains. The baboons are intelligent and “easily match wits” with village residents, who said the baboons are operating according to “studied plans”:

“It’s a daily game of hide and seek. The baboons are targeting empty houses and are well aware of what they are doing. The assault on the village is not random, as some believe. They proceed according to studied plans. That’s why their attacks do not fail. For example, imagine a resident who is absent from their home for a period of time. Even though it’s just one day, he is surprised to return to find his home in disarray.”

Monkeys-Attack-Car

The baboons normally live in the mountains, but they come down into the village to look for food in the winter. Some residents believe the market, where fresh fruit and vegetables are sometimes left out to rot, is what draws them to town. At one point, Kiad residents tried leaving behind poison bananas, but the monkeys figured out what they were doing and stopped eating them… 

Now, there’s no reason to panic yet. But rumors of revolution began earlier this week when a group of monkeys ransacked a town in Indonesia. There does not appear to be a connection between the two attacks. It’s totally random that two groups of moneys have waged attacks on humans within the last week. They are unconnected, unrelated events. There is no sophisticated crime syndicate being coordinated by a hyper-intelligent leader primate, like, say, prominent Justice League villain Gorilla Grodd. Just totally random. Yep, no monkey uprising here.

Rise_of_the_planet_1663957a

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In case you missed this heartwamer. We hear these apparent urban legends of lost animals finding their way back home after a trek of hundreds of miles. Here is the recent story of Holly, who became separated from her guardians  in Daytona Beach, Florida, but found her way back home to West Palm Beach after a 200 mile, two month-long, grueling journey. The funny thing is the cat had the intelligence to navigate and survive this amazing journey, but scientists have no clue how cats or other animals have such abilities.

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By PAM BELLUCK, New York Times, January 19, 2013

Jacob Richter, 70, left, and Bonnie Richter, 63, flank Holly, the cat that traveled 190 miles to find her way home.

See video link here

Nobody knows how it happened: an indoor housecat who got lost on a family excursion managing, after two months and about 200 miles, to return to her hometown.

Even scientists are baffled by how Holly, a 4-year-old tortoiseshell who in early November became separated from Jacob and Bonnie Richter at an R.V. rally in Daytona Beach, Fla., appeared on New Year’s Eve — staggering, weak and emaciated — in a backyard about a mile from the Richters’ house in West Palm Beach.

“Are you sure it’s the same cat?” wondered John Bradshaw, director of theUniversity of Bristol’s Anthrozoology Institute. In other cases, he has suspected, “the cats are just strays, and the people have got kind of a mental justification for expecting it to be the same cat.”

But Holly not only had distinctive black-and-brown harlequin patterns on her fur, but also an implanted microchip to identify her.

“I really believe these stories, but they’re just hard to explain,” said Marc Bekoff, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Colorado. “Maybe being street-smart, maybe reading animal cues, maybe being able to read cars, maybe being a good hunter. I have no data for this.”

There is, in fact, little scientific dogma on cat navigation. Migratory animals like birds, turtles and insects have been studied more closely, and use magnetic fields, olfactory cues, or orientation by the sun.

Scientists say it is more common, although still rare, to hear of dogs returning home, perhaps suggesting, Dr. Bradshaw said, that they have inherited wolves’ ability to navigate using magnetic clues. But it’s also possible that dogs get taken on more family trips, and that lost dogs are more easily noticed or helped by people along the way.

Cats navigate well around familiar landscapes, memorizing locations by sight and smell, and easily figuring out shortcuts, Dr. Bradshaw said.

Strange, faraway locations would seem problematic, although he and Patrick Bateson, a behavioral biologist at Cambridge University, say that cats can sense smells across long distances. “Let’s say they associate the smell of pine with wind coming from the north, so they move in a southerly direction,” Dr. Bateson said.

Peter Borchelt, a New York animal behaviorist, wondered if Holly followed the Florida coast by sight or sound, tracking Interstate 95 and deciding to “keep that to the right and keep the ocean to the left.”

But, he said, “nobody’s going to do an experiment and take a bunch of cats in different directions and see which ones get home.”

The closest, said Roger Tabor, a British cat biologist, may have been a 1954 study in Germany which cats placed in a covered circular maze with exits every 15 degrees most often exited in the direction of their homes, but more reliably if their homes were less than five kilometers away.

New research by the National Geographic and University of Georgia’s Kitty Cams Project, using video footage from 55 pet cats wearing video cameras on their collars, suggests cat behavior is exceedingly complex.

For example, the Kitty Cams study found that four of the cats were two-timing their owners, visiting other homes for food and affection. Not every cat, it seems, shares Holly’s loyalty.

KittyCams also showed most of the cats engaging in risky behavior, including crossing roads and “eating and drinking substances away from home,” risks Holly undoubtedly experienced and seems lucky to have survived.

But there have been other cats who made unexpected comebacks.

“It’s actually happened to me,” said Jackson Galaxy, a cat behaviorist who hosts “My Cat From Hell” on Animal Planet. While living in Boulder, Colo., he moved across town, whereupon his indoor cat, Rabbi, fled and appeared 10 days later at the previous house, “walking five miles through an area he had never been before,” Mr. Galaxy said.

Professor Tabor cited longer-distance reports he considered credible: Murka, a tortoiseshell in Russia, traveling about 325 miles home to Moscow from her owner’s mother’s house in Voronezh in 1989; Ninja, who returned to Farmington, Utah, in 1997, a year after her family moved from there to Mill Creek, Wash.; and Howie, an indoor Persian cat in Australia who in 1978 ran away from relatives his vacationing family left him with and eventually traveled 1,000 miles to his family’s home.

Professor Tabor also said a Siamese in the English village of Black Notley repeatedly hopped a train, disembarked at White Notley, and walked several miles back to Black Notley.

Still, explaining such journeys is not black and white.

In the Florida case, one glimpse through the factual fog comes on the little cat’s feet. While Dr. Bradshaw speculated Holly might have gotten a lift, perhaps sneaking under the hood of a truck heading down I-95, her paws suggest she was not driven all the way, nor did Holly go lightly.

“Her pads on her feet were bleeding,” Ms. Richter said. “Her claws are worn weird. The front ones are really sharp, the back ones worn down to nothing.”

Scientists say that is consistent with a long walk, since back feet provide propulsion, while front claws engage in activities like tearing. The Richters also said Holly had gone from 13.5 to 7 pounds.

Holly fled a vacation with her owners, the Richters, in Daytona Beach, Fla. Two months later, a family not far from the Richters' home in West Palm Beach found her, weak and thin, in their yard.

The New York TimesHolly fled a vacation with her owners, the Richters, in Daytona Beach, Fla. Two months later, a family not far from the Richters’ home in West Palm Beach found her, weak and thin, in their yard.

Holly hardly seemed an adventurous wanderer, though her background might have given her a genetic advantage. Her mother was a feral cat roaming the Richters’ mobile home park, and Holly was born inside somebody’s air-conditioner, Ms. Richter said. When, at about six weeks old, Holly padded into their carport and jumped into the lap of Mr. Richter’s mother, there were “scars on her belly from when the air conditioner was turned on,” Ms. Richter said.

Scientists say that such early experience was too brief to explain how Holly might have been comfortable in the wild — after all, she spent most of her life as an indoor cat, except for occasionally running outside to chase lizards. But it might imply innate personality traits like nimbleness or toughness.

“You’ve got these real variations in temperament,” Dr. Bekoff said. “Fish can be shy or bold; there seem to be shy and bold spiders. This cat, it could be she has the personality of a survivor.”

He said being an indoor cat would not extinguish survivalist behaviors, like hunting mice or being aware of the sun’s orientation.

The Richters — Bonnie, 63, a retired nurse, and Jacob, 70, a retired airline mechanics’ supervisor and accomplished bowler — began traveling with Holly only last year, and she easily tolerated a hotel, a cabin or the R.V.

But during the Good Sam R.V. Rally in Daytona, when they were camping near the speedway with 3,000 other motor homes, Holly bolted when Ms. Richter’s mother opened the door one night. Fireworks the next day may have further spooked her, and, after searching for days, alerting animal agencies and posting fliers, the Richters returned home catless.

Two weeks later, an animal rescue worker called the Richters to say a cat resembling Holly had been spotted eating behind the Daytona franchise of Hooters, where employees put out food for feral cats.

Then, on New Year’s Eve, Barb Mazzola, a 52-year-old university executive assistant, noticed a cat “barely standing” in her backyard in West Palm Beach, struggling even to meow. Over six days, Ms. Mazzola and her children cared for the cat, putting out food, including special milk for cats, and eventually the cat came inside.

They named her Cosette after the orphan in Les Misérables, and took her to a veterinarian, Dr. Sara Beg at Paws2Help. Dr. Beg said the cat was underweight and dehydrated, had “back claws and nail beds worn down, probably from all that walking on pavement,” but was “bright and alert” and had no parasites, heartworm or viruses. “She was hesitant and scared around people she didn’t know, so I don’t think she went up to people and got a lift,” Dr. Beg said. “I think she made the journey on her own.”

At Paws2Help, Ms. Mazzola said, “I almost didn’t want to ask, because I wanted to keep her, but I said, ‘Just check and make sure she doesn’t have a microchip.’” When told the cat did, “I just cried.”

The Richters cried, too upon seeing Holly, who instantly relaxed when placed on Mr. Richter’s shoulder. Re-entry is proceeding well, but the mystery persists.

“We haven’t the slightest idea how they do this,” Mr. Galaxy said. “Anybody who says they do is lying, and, if you find it, please God, tell me what it is.”

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